Day 2: Gratitude

Day 2: Gratitude

Welcome to day two. Today, our practice is simple yet incredibly effective in lowering stress and boosting mood. The basic practice of acknowledging and expressing gratitude can create an abundance of good feelings in our bodies.

We are prone to clinging to negative thoughts, feelings, memories, situations, etc. Just think about when you have a good experience dining out versus a poor experience dining out. Which one do you tell your friends, family, co-workers about over and over? Most of us would agree, it is the poor experience.

We’re also bombarded by news stories and media full of negativity all day, every day. It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in and overwhelmed by how awful things seemingly are. Now, this is not about ignoring difficult emotions and just "focusing on the positive" by any means. It's crucial to our well-being to be aware of and experience all of our emotions with openness and curiosity. But, there is great value in taking time to be aware of the things we are grateful for. It can help pull us out of spirals of pity and negativity and put things into a different, more helpful perspective. It allows us the opportunity to feel more deeply connected to our surroundings, as well as the opportunity to experience more contentment with ourselves and our lives just as they are today.

According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the feeling of gratitude involves two stages (2003):

  1. First comes the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that all in all, life is good, and has elements that make life worth living, and rich in texture. The acknowledgment that we have received something gratifies us, both by its presence and by the effort the giver put into choosing it.
  2. Second, gratitude is recognizing that some of the sources of this goodness lie outside the self. One can be grateful to other people, to animals, and to the world, but not to oneself. At this stage, we recognize the goodness in our lives and who to thank for it, ie., who made sacrifices so that we could be happy?

Before you begin the practice, have a pen and piece of paper nearby.

Start by pausing for a moment. Place your feet on the floor, sit comfortably and in a relaxed position. Close your eyes or adjust them to a soft focus. Take a few deep breaths. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. Notice your body, how are you feeling right now? Notice your thoughts, how are you feeling right now? Remember, whatever you notice is okay. Feelings aren't good or bad, feelings just are.

Now, notice your breath moving in and out of your body. Consider that your body does this great task, and keeps you alive. Take a moment to experience gratitude, simply for the fact that your are vividly alive. There is breath in your body and you get to experience this moment, right now. Take a few more breaths, and allow feelings of warmth, joy, and contentment to wash over your as you experience gratitude.

Now slowly open your eyes. Grab your pen and paper and start a list. Whatever comes to mind, write down ten things you are grateful for. Get specific. Focus in on details. Rather than, I’m grateful for my family, hone in. I am grateful for my child, I’m grateful for them giving me a hug this morning, their hug gave me feelings of appreciation and closeness. I am grateful for my best friend; that they think of me and send me funny text messages that brighten my day. How about the goodness of holding a warm cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Or the sound of your loved ones laughter. Perhaps the soothing sound of a thunderstorm or birds singing out your window. Add those to your list.

Once you've taken some time to compile your list, look at all the wonderful things you feel grateful for. How special it is to live a life with so many gifts. Close your eyes. Open your heart and welcome in all positive emotions, allow yourself the space to feel joy and happiness for all the things on that list. It can be difficult to allow our hearts to really open up to these good feelings, and that’s okay. It takes practice. Take your time, and just allow yourself to soften and relax into the experience of feeling gratitude at your own pace. Notice how it feels in your body to welcome gratitude. Take a moment to say "thank you" in your mind or out loud. Say it as many times as you’d like. Then softly come back into the room, open your eyes, and take a few more breaths. Check back in. Before you get up and continue about your day, pause and notice how you’re feeling after the practice. Take note of the differences in your mind and body from when you started your practice today.

You can do this practice every day. Write down or simply call to mind 3-5 things that you are grateful for on that particular day. Pause and allow yourself to feel that gratitude, welcome in the warm feelings that come with it.

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